LPCAMM2 Is Finally Here, and It’s a Big Deal

If you’ve ever tried to “future-proof” a purchase by paying for everything you might eventually need up front, you know it can be a sucker’s game. The problem? We can’t actually see the future. 

But today we got our hands on LPCAMM2 for the first time, and this looks like the future to us. LPCAMM2 is a totally modular, repairable, upgradeable memory standard for laptops, using the latest LPDDR chips for maximum speed and efficiency. So instead of overpaying (or under-speccing) based on guesswork about your future memory needs, you’ll hopefully be able to buy your next laptop and then install more RAM as needed. Imagine that!

We say “hopefully” because the laptop on our teardown table today is the first of its kind, thanks to a collaboration between Micron and Lenovo—and it remains to be seen how many other big laptop makers will adopt LPCAMM2 technology. But judging by the results of our initial hands-on, the writing is on the wall for laptops with soldered-down, non-serviceable memory.

What is LPDDR, and why do manufacturers solder it down?

Repairable, upgradeable RAM isn’t exactly a new idea. As anyone who has ever built a PC knows, we’ve had swappable DDR RAM sticks (also known as DIMMs, or Dual In-Line Memory Modules) since basically forever. From old Gateway towers to today’s gaming powerhouses to zillion-dollar industrial servers, upgradeable and replaceable RAM is still very much a thing. And for many years, the same was true of laptops, which used a slightly more compact (“Small-Outline” DIMM, or SO-DIMM) version of those same RAM sticks.

More recently though, we’ve seen increasing adoption of LPDDR—a low-power flavor of RAM (hence the “LP”) developed for mobile devices like phones and tablets. Whereas conventional DDR RAM excels at performance applications where power consumption isn’t a primary concern, like video editing or gaming, LPDDR wins the day when it comes to efficiency—a.k.a. battery life. And so for laptops in particular, the benefits of LPDDR are hard to beat.

The drawback of LPDDR, though, is that it has to be soldered to the main board in close proximity to the processor—making repairs and upgrades completely impractical. But why?

LPDDR operates at lower voltages compared to DDR, giving it the edge in power efficiency. But, the lower voltage makes signal integrity between the memory and processor challenging, requiring tighter tolerances and shorter trace distances—that is, the farther the signal has to travel, the more voltage you need for a reliable signal. This is why LPDDR is soldered down as close to the processor as possible.

Historically, LPDDR chips (left) had to be soldered very close to the main processor (right).

In short, laptop makers and consumers alike have faced an unfortunate dilemma: conventional SO-DIMM RAM for serviceability and upgradeability, or soldered LPDDR chips for longer battery life.

Today, that changes.

Enter LPCAMM2 

Standing for “Low-Power Compression-Attached Memory Module,” the new tech is as the name suggests: LPDDR chips on a compact board that screws in place very close to a laptop’s CPU. Combining the efficiency and speed of LPDDR with a thin, lightweight, upgradeable design and a trick interface that gets everything up close and personal with the CPU, LPCAMM2 seemingly does it all. And with dual-channel performance already baked in, a single LPCAMM2 module can do the job of a pair of the old socketed SO-DIMM sticks with a much smaller footprint and better thermals to boot. Finally: modular, performant, power-efficient laptop memory for the masses.

Even though LPCAMM2 is arriving initially from Micron, in a Lenovo product, the technology owes its existence to an alliance of tech companies working together over the course of several years. The first iteration, known as CAMM, was an in-house project at Dell, with the first DDR5-equipped CAMM modules installed in Dell Precision 7000 series laptops. And thankfully, after doing the initial R&D to make the tech a reality, Dell didn’t gatekeep. Their engineers believed that the project had such a good chance at becoming the next widespread memory standard that instead of keeping it proprietary, they went the other way and opened it up for standardization. 

They were right. Only a few short years later, with the blessing of the JEDEC standards body, LPCAMM2 is here and ready to take the torch.

Dell is one hero in this story, creating something the tech world sorely needed and then sharing instead of keeping it for themselves. Thankfully, this story is full of heroes: Micron and Lenovo are first to bring LPCAMM2 to market, with Samsung, ADATA, and others backing it as well. Instead of everyone going their own way, they’ve rallied around a new industry standard—meaning an off-the-shelf LPCAMM2 module should theoretically work in any laptop that adopts the technology, regardless of who manufactures it. With the industry as a whole on the same page, backing standards like this, the world becomes a more repairable place.

Designing for a repairable future

The advent of LPCAMM2 is especially gratifying for repair advocates, who for years have been told that repairability simply can’t coexist with cutting-edge tech in thin-and-light devices. We’re not ready to accept that, and we’ve long argued that OEMs who are willing to innovate with repairability in mind can do better. Maybe we can’t see the future, but we can envision one that’s more repairable than what we’ve been sold in recent years—and we’re grateful when companies like Micron and Lenovo take the leap to make that future a reality.

The Micron LPCAMM2 module disassembled next to iFixit tools and laptop parts

LPCAMM2 exemplifies our ability to advance technologically while designing with sustainability in mind. It represents a significant step forward in the fight against planned obsolescence. By fighting for a modular, upgradeable memory solution for chips previously stuck in a soldered hellscape, manufacturers are demonstrating their commitment to creating devices that stand the test of time. 

There’s so much to gain here: from increasing device lifespan at schools and businesses, to reducing anxiety for consumers at the point of purchase, to enabling hassle-free repairs for devices that would otherwise be scrapped. As more companies rally behind this standard, we can look forward to a future where more laptops are built to last, and where repairs and upgrades aren’t only possible, but encouraged. There’s no question that the potential for this technology to make a tangible difference is real, and it’s right in front of us.

Full Disclosure: iFixit has prior business relationships with both Micron and Lenovo, and we are hopelessly biased in favor of repairable products.